Automotive research and development is an ever-changing field that encompasses everything from how to make vehicles more fuel efficient to how to sell more cars by making vehicles on the cutting edge of style. When it comes to learning about automotive research and development, it's smart to familiarize yourself with a few key terms, especially in the area of fuel efficiency, so that you'll be able to understand the research and development projects being discussed.
Zero-emission vehicleA zero-emission vehicle, or ZEV, as it's otherwise known, is a vehicle that produces next to zero emissions during operation. Some states are now requiring an "environmental performance" label on cars purchased at a dealership. Part of the environmental performance label will include information on the amount of emissions released.
California Environmental Protection Agency has a comprehensive guide on the different measurements taken to determine if a vehicle qualifies for a zero-emission or near-zero-emission rating.
Hydrogen-fuel cellA hydrogen-fuel cell refers to a tank that stores high-pressure hydrogen gas or hydrogen-rich fuels like natural gas or methanol. The fuel cell uses a mix of hydrogen and oxygen (taken from the air) to create electricity.
U.S. Department of Energy offers an in-depth look at new kinds of fuel cells being studied in automotive research and development.
Flex fuelFlex-fuel vehicles refers to vehicles that run on about 85 percent gasoline and 15 percent ethanol. The mixture of the two fuels is therefore called flex fuel.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discusses flex fuel and how it is part of automotive research and development.
Direct-fuel injectionDirect-fuel injection refers to the process of injecting the fuel directly into the cylinder chamber. This differs from the conventional process where air is mixed with fuel before it is pumped into the cylinder chamber. Direct-fuel injection allows a smaller amount of gas to be used, thus lowering fuel consumption per mile.
Fuel Economy.gov examines how direct-fuel injection operates.
BiofuelsBiofuels are fuel sources that are derived from living biological material. Shortly after the biological material is harvested, it is converted into fuel. For instance, corn can be harvested and eventually turned into ethanol, and soybeans can eventually be processed (when mixed with fuel) into biodiesel. Biofuels can be replanted so they can be harvested again and again.
Center for Applied Energy Research has a discussion on research and technology in relation to biofuels.
Waste-exhaust heatWaste-exhaust heat refers to the heat that's expelled from your car engine through the tailpipe. Long thought to be a useless byproduct, waste-exhaust heat is now being studied by automotive research and development firms that are trying to harness and reuse it.
Green Car.com has a comprehensive discussion on possible uses of waste-exhaust heat.